Wingman to all

Several Airmen pose for a picture Aug. 27, 2018, at the Grizzly Bend at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Several Airmen pose for a picture Aug. 27, 2018, at the Grizzly Bend at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. These four Airmen spend several hours each Sunday at confinement, spending time with the confinees. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

Airmen demonstrate a card game Aug. 27, 2018, at the Grizzly Bend at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Airmen demonstrate a card game Aug. 27, 2018, at the Grizzly Bend at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. While visiting confinement, Airmen play games similar to this with confinees to create a more relaxed environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Airmen fall under a certain culture - a wingman culture. Called to protect fellow Airmen, demonstrate courage and strength, being a wingman is vital to the success of the Air Force.

Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards, states: “Being a good wingman means taking care of fellow Airmen – and taking action when signs of trouble are observed.”

For several Airmen at Malmstrom Air Force Base, spending time with individuals held in the base confinement facility is part of the wingman culture.

Upon arriving at Malmstrom, Airman 1st Class Lee Williams, 341st Medical Operations Squadron bioenvironmental engineer, had an opportunity to visit the confinement facility during a First Term Airman Course class. Seeing the austere conditions confined Airmen live in compelled Williams to take action.

Interaction from the outside world could make the difference in the week of a confinee. But while confinees are allotted several time slots for visitors, it doesn’t guarantee someone will come.

This responsibility falls upon other people to step forward and help these people, said Williams. All it took was going to the confinement facility one Sunday and volunteering to visit the confinees.

“I wanted to help and make a difference,” said Williams. “In confinement, they still wear a uniform and are still a brother or sister in arms. It’s up to us to continue to be their wingmen.”

Part of this desire to help stems from Williams’ background.

His mother, a probation and parole officer, spent time around people convicted of crimes and in turn influenced Williams’ image of people in these situations.

Watching documentaries on crime and people behind bars added to his desire to make change.

Along with Williams, additional Airmen have volunteered their time at confinement.

“If I were in their position, I’d want people to visit me,” said Airman 1st Class Craig Murphy, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron traffic management apprentice. “When I heard about this opportunity, I had to jump on it.”

The hope is to provide something for the confinees to look forward to, said Williams.

“We play board games and talk with them,” said Airman 1st Class Kyle Devereaux, 40th Helicopter Squadron resource advisor. “It’s fun for us, fun for the confinees and gives them something to look forward to.”

During the remainder of the confinee’s week, the only other interactions they have are with the security forces Airmen working at the confinement facility.

From their perspective, these Airmen volunteering their time at confinement is very beneficial to the confines.

“It can get lonesome being in confinement and it’s something the confinees look forward to,” said Senior Airman Noah Pacheco, 341st Security Forces Squadron response force leader. “It reminds the confinees that they’re still a part of the military. They still have wingmen.”

Although confinement is seen as a corrective action, the emphasis is on the rehabilitation process and getting these people back to normal function, said Senior Airman Daniel Hall, 341st Security Forces Squadron member.

“We’re trying to help in deterring them from making future decisions with a negative impact,” said Williams. “We don’t want them to reoffend. We want them to have a positive impact once they reintegrate into society.”

Not only has this benefited the people in confinement, it has also had an impact on the Airmen that have volunteered their time there.

“Spending time with them gave me a new perspective that people can change and you don’t have to be defined by the negative things you’ve done,” said Airman 1st Class Tyler Eikost, 341st Force Support Squadron dining facility apprentice. “There doesn’t have to be that stigma of ‘once a criminal, always a criminal.’”

Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards, states: “Being a good wingman means taking care of fellow Airmen – and taking action when signs of trouble are observed.”
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